This was a typically valiant performance from the Bulls, who seem to cherish games against the two-time defending champs more than anyone else in the league. A late Kirk Hinrich lay-up helped force the extra period, and Chicago outscored Miami 9-2 in overtime to claim the victory against its rival.
Although the nationally-televised showdown didn't produce any major fireworks in the way of flagrant fouls or ejections, as we've seen in the past, the little tussle between James and Butler in the second quarter did serve as a potential postseason preview (if the seeds break properly and Chicago can advance).
With a little more than four minutes remaining before halftime and the Bulls leading 35-34, Butler missed a jumper and the Heat cleared the defensive rebound. James leaked out behind the defense in transition and hauled in an outlet pass from Mario Chalmers in the paint. The back-to-back MVP lost his handle on the ball, though, and Joakim Noah dug it out of a pile before heading back down the other way to initiate another Chicago possession.
As the action moved on to the other end, James and Butler remained in the paint underneath Miami's hoop with their legs locked. As Butler attempted to free himself, his left foot swung toward James' head. James appeared to dodge the worst from Butler's foot, and his own left foot was resting against Butler's head during the sequence. The Heat star also gave Butler's face a little shove with his left forearm as he got back to his feet.
Finally, the whistle was blown, the double technicals were assessed and the game proceeded.
After wearing a black mask and a clear mask to cover a broken nose during recent games, James elected to go mask-free against the Bulls, as he did down the stretch of a recent loss to the Spurs. The incident with Butler didn't appear to cause any further damage on that front.
Noah led the Bulls with 20 points (on 9-for-16 shooting), 12 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks. Butler added 16 points (on 4-for-15 shooting), 11 rebounds and four steals.
Dwyane Wade paced Miami with a game-high 25 points (on 7-for-16 shooting), five rebounds, four assists and two steals. James added 17 points (on 8-for-23 shooting), nine rebounds, eight assists and three steals in a losing effort.
Chicago improved to 35-28 with the victory. Miami fell to 43-17 with its third straight loss.Video via YouTube user HardwoodParoxysm09 | Hat tip: Eye On Basketball